How to Find Inner-Peace

I got out of bed at 3:30am to the smell of fire. I walked outside to my balcony and noticed the sky had a pinkish hue. Falling down was bits of debris. I felt ash on the wooden ledge, but could not see any evidence of a fire. I proceeded to the internet and saw that Napa/Sonoma county are currently experiencing forrest fires. My heart is with them.

This was an extremely unsettling week for me. I was not affected personally, but those close to me were – so I guess you could call it personal.

A friends brother committed suicide, another friend was close to Mandalay Bay during the Vegas shooting and nearly lost his life, a few friends/family members are going through rough patches in their life that I cannot comprehend even if I tried and another close friend opened up to me about his father committing suicide and growing up with a mother who was a drug addict. If that wasn’t enough, he was an innocent bystander at an event and was shot with inches spared that would have paralyzed him for life.

These are real problems that those that I love experienced, and although my problems are not the same, they’ve been important in fostering my spiritual growth.

Today I wanted to share some ways to find, cultivate and practice inner-peace. My reasons are all through direct experience. They are authentic and every bit a part of me as my heartbeat.

Meditate – First off, meditation is not a session that you do once in a while, it’s a state of mind. It’s NOT to recount past lives, reduce karma or touch some unknown cord that is beyond the empirical senses. That is nonsense. Meditation helps clear the noise in our head and make room for mental clarity. It is a practice to think about nothing. The reason it is simplistic and profound is because all the noise we have in our head is of the past and future – both of which are not here. Meditation helps us hone in on this moment. It is only through attentive and consistent practice that one can find inner-peace, even in the most dire of situations.

Tip – download headspace  – It’s a meditation app with a free trial period. I have not gone beyond the free trial because I’m at an intermediate level of meditation, mainly through my practice with Vipassana. Headspace is awesome for beginners. Please take advantage. 

Reminding the Self – When anxiety, worry or any feeling of unease presents itself, I literally tell myself, “there is nothing going on in the world except where I am right now.” I know I’m just stating the obvious, but it’s easy to forget that the noise in our heads are just clouds in our mental sky. Even if you want to think about the past and future, you can only do it now. Allow this moment to be your entire world. This is not new information, but just like water – we constantly need it to replenish our spirit. To live in the past and future robs us of energy, but being in the present facilities a path for more of it.

Listening to others – Many people confide in me. I listen. They tell me personal things. I listen. When they ask for advice, I ask them, “what do you think you should do?” I’ve come to a place in my life where my best vehicle to heal another is through listening. My problems can never be someone else’s, but by listening I am letting another vent and they are healing. The very act of doing this is service. You feel alive when you help others and subconsciously you are healing yourself. When Mother Teresa was asked, “how can I change the world.” She said, “go home and love your family.”  There is no shortage of people in our lives that can use our ear. Give them all your attention – unencumbered with the slightest notion of advice. All advice is predicated on our experience. It’s as if you’re trying to give directions to someone, but they have the map. Check out this article I wrote for elephant journal earlier this year for more context on this.

Listening to what is – When what you see becomes what you hear, then true freedom, healing, love, growth, etc.. take place. Think about this statement for a second because it’s rudimentary in nature, but unlocks huge potential for us. As you go about your day, be completely attentive in what you are doing. As I’m typing these words I am completely engaged and a sense of euphoria is over me that is hard to explain. This feeling is available to all of us. It takes practice because the chatter of the mind persists, but eventually it will subside – but you have to give a tremendous amount of effort and many don’t want to expel this type of energy. Many are content with the endless chatter in their minds. It’s a sad way to live when turning the light switch on is very easy. Practice active listening by being fully aware in the most mundane activities of your daily life. Enjoy the taste of your food and savor it. Try to drive home without the radio and completely focus on the act of driving. When you get home to your family put away on the phone and be engaged in any conversation.

You can’t help anyone – You can be a tool to guide others in their healing, but you cannot walk the path of another. This can be hard because we want those we love to be okay. Although we are experiencing life collectively, our journeys are alone. We can only be a lampost for those we love. Smile because you don’t own their problems, but also smile because you know you can help them without taking on their baggage.

Eat more veggies/fruits and drink more water – Inner-peace has a lot to do with diet. I practice a plant-based diet. Although I’m not perfect, eating this way about 98% of the time has its benefits. Our bodies pH hovers around 7.35-7.45. Waters pH is at 7. We must be as close to water as possible for the body to run efficiently. Since fruits and veggies are comprised largely of water, they help the body maintain a state of homeostasis. Eating this way makes the heart work less. Foods high in cholesterol thickens the blood and makes the heart work harder. Too much caffeine does this as well. Take care of your health today. Don’t wait for tomorrow. There will never be a perfect time to start. Just start. If you are interested in changing the way you eat, please see my blog veganswamy.com. I have new content coming soon.

Anicha – This word means impermanence in Pali – a language that’s dead now, but was spoken 5000 years ago. If you learn nothing else in this lifetime, please learn anicha. If more people understood that every feeling or sensation you feel will come and go, more would adopt better mental health. The knowing that all things are in constant flux helps you not attach to any one feeling for too long. The 4 seasons are a reminder of this. Even if we are attached to spring, the winter will force us to feel her cold. We might rejoice in the anticipation of summer but it will give way to autumn – but if you can love each season for what it is, then no matter what time of year – you will not be dispirited.

Breathe – Although we all breathe, when we are in our minds and thinking about events that are not in the present, our breathing patterns change. They become shorter, less oxygen comes into the body which means blood flow is restricted and the heart works harder. Closing your eyes and removing yourself from the world temporarily and taking deep breaths will help. Breathe deeply for about 1 minute right now if time permits with eyes closed. Count your breaths and focus on how the air comes in and out of your nasal passages. How do you feel?

I sincerely hope some of these tips help you. Our world is full of beauty and turmoil – and although everyone complains about the turmoil – if you can see it with a certain amount of beauty, this life that you’ve been gifted can become more enjoyable.

You are your thoughts, but also the entity looking at the thoughts. Your thoughts are the clouds, but the limitless sky – beyond the veil of blue into the infinite cosmos is you as well. We all have the capacity to understand this.

Written with Love,
Anand Swamy

The 38 Bus Ride

Whenever I have to run errands in the city I take the bus. Although having a car in San Francisco, CA is convenient, it doesn’t help me arrive in the same way in which the bus does.

Let me Explain. 

So when I got to the bus station, I had the choice of getting on the 38 or 38r. The latter being faster with less stops. Yesterday, both buses came at the same time with the 38 (slower bus) being in the front.

Not surprisingly, everyone took the 38r. I wasn’t in a rush. These days I never am so I gladly took the 38. I often think about why people rush because no matter where you run off to, the earth will keep on spinning. If you think about it, we are actually going no where.

Most folks aren’t in a rush because a loved one is on the brink of death or trouble. Shouldn’t these be the only reasons to rush?

I’m usually on time for things, but if I’m late, fuck it! The world will still move on, my appointments will understand and I’ll still be okay.

When I see people rushing, I see anxiety. I see the world riddled with it and don’t think anyone deserves it. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I write. I don’t like to see people suffering from problems that they can control.  I’m not sure if it helps others, but I do hope so.

Anyways, I digress. So I got into the empty bus and started noticing my neighborhood for the first time again. I choose to see everything I encounter, even if somewhat familiar like it’s brand new. It makes every day exciting and intrinsically blissful.

I saw Darryl during my ride – a middle aged white man, bald head, grey scruffy beard, faded light blue jeans and a blue hooded sweater. He was skinny, but healthy. He was also homeless. I know him by name because while going to Subway one hungry evening, I asked him if he wanted a sandwich. I gave him the sub and we started chatting. We didn’t talk long, and even the times we do talk, he’s always in a rush and today was no different. I sincerely hope that wherever Darryl goes, he gets there.

I saw Russian grocers selling meat, fish, vegetables and other Russian delicacies to their fellow comrades. A taste of home makes us feel like we’ve never left, doesn’t it?

With the exception of a few passengers the 38 was still empty. I got off on Spruce st. to get my computer repaired. The letter G came off.

I noticed that the 38r – the bus with fewer stops and more people was only now in-front of the 38. I looked at the crowded bus. People standing, crunched up against one another in discomfort and disarray.

Sometimes going faster means bombarding ourselves with more problems and keeping the mind cluttered. As humans we will never be complete.
———
If you look at life like a race, you will never finish, but if you’re aware of this whole spectacle of creation – the not knowing why we are here – you can truly see life for what it is. It’s important to enjoy the ride.

There is no finish line. You have to enjoy every moment and give them all equal attention and admiration.

Enjoy the good, enjoy the bad, cry your ass off when shit goes sour, and cry again joyously when they get better. All these events are just bus stops. They will change.

Enjoy the ride my dear friends, and whenever possible, opt for the slower ride. The ride that will make you contemplate existence..the ride that will make you smile as the sun shines on your cheek from the heavens.. the ride that makes you see a stranger as a lost sister or brother.

As far as the eyes can see, we will never have another.

Sincerely,

Anand Swamy

I Went to Prison

The cops pulled me over. I knew it was bad, although I didn’t know exactly what I did. It was dusk and the air was restless. The mood of that evening reminded me of the first episode of the Wonder Years when Kevin went for a walk, only to find Winnie in the forrest after her brother had just died in Vietnam. Except with this story there is no comforting end and no Percy Sledge to ease my woes.  Continue reading “I Went to Prison”

What is Spirituality

I decided to try something a little different and share a video where I briefly talk about spirituality and what it means to me.

I meet new and interesting people constantly and somehow the conversation always gets steered towards life and its purpose.

In my interactions I see many derivatives. Almost all problems are centered around the past and future. Although the term presence is ubiquitous and sort of a cliche, people who practice is still far and few because it takes an extraordinary amount of patience and awareness to be in this moment.

In this video I share how you can start practicing spirituality right now.

With Love,
Anand

Setting Fire — The Inward Revolution

A Noble Act of Defiance

In the 1960’s Monks in Vietnam burned themselves alive in protest to the war. (click here for pictures)

They did so with peace and grace.

They saw what was obvious for many of us. That violence doesn’t solve a thing.

They took action, and however you may feel about their decision, it was rooted in peace.

People who take on Monk-hood are respected in the Asian subcontinent because they have removed themselves from worldly pursuits.

Their life has become one of celibacy, simple accommodations and a relentless pursuit to perfect the art of meditation.

All their duties carry a focus to bring compassion to the world and attain liberation.

I don’t know what it means to be liberated or what’s nirvana — nor will I assume what it is, but nonetheless, the way these monks burned themselves alive and still kept a calm demeanor is something I can’t help but admire.

Meditation

I had an “Aha” moment after years and years of self-introspection, a minimalistic lifestyle, contemplation in nature, experiments with drugs, long bouts of fasting, cold showers, spiritual lectures and tons of reading.

I was searching for something but didn’t know what. Maybe it was the search for the meaning of life..maybe it was for joy??

I had no real direction.

The moment everything changed for me was when I decided to stop the outward search.

Meditation was the answer. The funny thing is the answer was with me the whole time.

The thing that I was searching for, was searching for me. When we both finally converged, this thing called “LIFE” made a little more sense.

Popular belief states that we should seize the moment, but I believe that the moment seizes us.

Meditation is when I confronted the self and became responsible for every feeling I have and every action I perform.

Meditation is when you begin to see yourself as the examiner of thoughts -and if a thought happens to consume you, you’re able to disengage and come back the present moment.

The Inward Revolution

It’s the revolution that is seldom talked about.

The world of war, politics, greed, famine, poverty, criminal activity, financial burden and every other conceivable problem we have will never go away.

The problems in our life is the FIRE. It will burn for the rest of our life and long after we’re gone.

The inward revolution is the war that we are constantly waging with ourselves.

We’ve been accustomed to point the finger at others for our troubles (mentally, socially, psychologically, financially and physically) without acknowledging that we are the culprit.

Spirituality is the acknowledgement that you’re creating your world moment to moment and every action your perform and every thought you think has a consequence.

This is more widely known as cause and effect.

The ability to look inwardly and solely rely on yourself as the solution for all problems takes an extraordinary amount of discipline, trust and patience.

Most people in the world won’t be able to do this because let’s face it — it’s easier to blame others for our state of mind.

It’s easier to trust others than ourselves.

It’s easier to find instant gratification even though the best things in life are deferred.

It’s easier to have an excuse.

It’s easier to compartmentalize and label all our baggage as good and bad.

It’s easier to stay stagnant with our problems than realize that there are no problems — only the ones we hold onto mentally.

The inward revolution is about confronting the uncomfortable and painful and to understand that it wasn’t all that bad.

Equanimity

When I went on a 10-day Vipassana Meditation retreat I had many great revelations.

Despite the joy and almost MDMA type of euphoria that I experienced daily, none was more profound than the pain that hour long sits induce.

Sitting in one place is hard enough and doing it 10–12 hours a day can be torture and for me it kind of was — but after 3 days into the 10 day sit I was making peace with the pain.

I was able to feel the burning sensations and invited them with the same acceptance that I invited the euphoric feelings.

Similar to my physical pain I also experienced mental pains.

I uncovered the temporary bandaids of past problems and performed deep surgical drilling to eradicate them for good.

Pain is simply a sensation that comes and goes. It’s when we attach ourselves to these sensations that we inflict pain.

When we can make peace with the pain and when we understand to dance with the world of change we can live with equanimity.

Change is Inevitable — Now is all we have

I’m probably stating the obvious but we all know that everything in the world is in constant flux.

Despite this rudimentary knowledge, many of us will continue to live in the past and future narrations of our wondering mind.

Living this moment and seeing it for the change it is can be difficult, but once you cross that hurdle, life becomes intrinsically more beautiful.

Living in the now might seem like some new age term, especially in my home of San Francisco, CA — but living in the present moment is deeper than that.

Our psychological well-being as people depend on accepting and surrendering to this moment.

This is not to say that we should nullify the need to pursue and attain our goals, but more-so to be at peace with what is at all times.

Closing

The Monks in Vietnam had to take action. They did so as they saw most effective.

In the midst of the FIRE — they peacefully gave their lives because the act of compassion was bigger than them. I envy and appreciate their sacrifice.

They did not die in vain.

Through them we can learn.

The lesson is that no matter the fire in your life, no matter how much it burns and tries to consume you — if you can stay calm and see the situation as something that comes and goes, then you can uncover what we’re all generally chasing in this world.

Joy.

To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour — William Blake

With Love,

Anand

What is Meditation

As I sit at my local coffee shop writing these words to you I feel joy.

I do not know where this joy comes from nor do I care.

It’s in moments like this that I take a step back, breathe deeply and relish in my current environment — because no matter where the mind decides to travel, I can only be here. Continue reading “What is Meditation”

I can hear the Stillness – but have a way to go

“Let it be still, and it will gradually become clear.” Lao Tzu

Stillness

I was helping a friend shoot a video for his non-profit this weekend.

We decided to head to a path in Golden Gate Park that I frequent during morning runs.

The pathway was next to a frisbee golf course.

We were positioned to shoot a short clip when a group of guys who were taking part in this intense sport (sarcasm), signaled us from afar to move back.

Actually the gesture was more like get the F*** out the way. Continue reading “I can hear the Stillness – but have a way to go”

5 Immediate Benefits of Meditation

My Super Brief Introduction into Meditation

I brought meditation into my life because I was on the path of self-discovery. In the pursuit to understand enlightenment, the taste for much of what I thought was of value faded. I needed to make sense of the constant conversation I was having with myself in the mind. Continue reading “5 Immediate Benefits of Meditation”